Francisco Coll (born 1985), winner of the ICMA Composer Award 2019, will be paying tribute to painter Joaquín Sorolla (Valencia 1863 – Cercedilla, Madrid 1923) during the Iturbi Prize, organised by the Valencia Provincial Government or Diputació, with his work Madre [Mother]. It is a piece that must be performed, in the Year of Sorolla, by the ten pianists competing in the second phase of the 22nd International Piano Competition of Valencia, which can count on Joaquín Achúcarro as its artistic director and will take place from 31 May to 9 June. The Valencian composer has been inspired by the painter’s homonymous painting commemorating birth of his daughter Elena in 1895.
The piece is intimate in nature and is linked to the painting, which depicts part of a room, focusing on Sorolla’s wife and daughter, yet creating “an expansive universe”. The composer explains that “when one observes the painting closely, one realises the amount of chromaticism and subtleties it contains.” He emphasises that “through that imposing whiteness, it has the extraordinary ability to convey not only an intensity and impetuous expressiveness, but at the same time it achieves a poignant serenity and tenderness.”
From a purely ornamental point of view, the musical score does not possess the Andalusian or flamenco nature of his earlier works like Four Iberian Miniatures, so as to approach in some way “the heritage of Valencia’s Muslim past, as well as Sephardic music.” Coll’s interest has been in “translating the light that Sorolla so often painted into sounds,” and he stresses that “this animation of light helped me to write the first bars of the piece, which could represent sinuous glints of filtered light in continuous movement. It is an ever-shifting, uneven luminosity found in the upper half of the piano keyboard.”
Thanks to the use of timbrous textural and dynamic inflections, “the work could follow the path of Schumann, Chopin, Berg or Scelsi,” a composer who was very much present while he wrote Madre; and he points out that “we could also find connections with other creators such as Ligeti and Scarlatti.”
The composer had been wanting to write a piece for solo piano for some time, as he had not done so since he wrote Vestiges in London 10 years ago. Coll states that “Madre is imbued with Spanish folklore. Nevertheless, it’s a very illusory folklore, but at the same time it’s also rather rooted in the great Central European tradition. Maybe it’s difficult to define, but it’s good that that’s the case.”
Gloria Tello, the councillor responsible for the Iturbi Prize, head of Culture for the Valencia City Council and president of the Palau de la Música, has affirmed that “Francisco Coll’s composition is a contribution from the Iturbi Prize to the Sorolla Year, the anniversary commemorating the painter on the centenary of his death.” “Having a composition by a Valencian as internationally renowned and acknowledged as Francisco Coll shows, on the one hand, the firm commitment that the contest intends to make towards prestigious Valencian musicians, and on the other, the artistic level that we have placed on the latest editions of the Iturbi Prize, whose recognition has grown notably in the sphere of music and piano.”
Francisco Coll is one of the most internationally renowned composers, having been acknowledged with the most significant classical music awards on a European level, including the ICMA (International Classical Music Awards), where he won the Composer Award in 2019; and two distinctions in 2022: in the Orchestra category, awarded by the Luxembourg Philharmonic, and in Contemporary Music.